Stanford's defensive line depth will once again be tested this Saturday when the Cardinal visits Utah. Henry Anderson and Ikenna Nwafor are out with injuries, and starters David Parry and Ben Gardner working through various ailments, though each is expected to play.
Potentially complicating matters is the altitude at Utah's Rice Eccles Stadium, which sits 4,657 feet above sea level.
But Stanford defensive line coach Randy Hart doesn't think the altitude will present any additional challenges to his unit.
"It won't be a problem," Hart said. "The altitude is what you want to make it. I've heard so many theories on how to work with altitude… again, come in and play."
Still, Stanford won't have the defensive line rotation it once envisioned when they take on the Utes. In the offseason, Cardinal coaches expressed a desire to have an extensive rotation along the defensive line. Stanford hasn't accomplished that goal, though injuries have played a part.
"We're not close enough at all," Hart said. "We have to step up. Two of them are down, so we have four of them playing and two of them are down, but I'd like a seven or eight man rotation. Some of the youngsters have to pick it up… It's midterm time right now and I look at the weight chart and about every one of them has lost five, seven, eight, 10 pounds because they're not eating the way they should, they're hurrying. They're burning the candle at both ends staying up late studying and doing what they do. As a result we have to get ourselves tuned up to adapt to the finals time right now and get ourselves nourished and rested and go play."
Three second-year players are among the candidates to join the defensive line rotation.
"I think Aziz is a guy that's knocking on the door as far as getting his time," Hart said. "Nate Lohn is a guy that's been working away there and getting himself going. I look at Jordan Watkins, he's coming along, but again, he's not to the point of getting out there. You don't inherit a spot. You earn a spot and as result you just don't give them they away."
Redshirt sophomore walk-on Alex Yazdi has also put himself in contention for playing time.
"He's come along great," Hart said. "He's been scout team player of the week on defense for two weeks. He's a guy that works hard and again, he gets it… He might not do everything right, he might not be the biggest guy, but if he gives you what you got on the field every snap then doggone it there's got to be a place for a guy that gives great effort."
Though developing depth is a priority, Stanford's starting defensive line has thus far handled the loss of Henry Anderson well. A big reason is the play fifth-year senior Josh Mauro, who was recently added to the Bednarik Award watch list.
"He's always been a starter in my mind," Hart said. "We left spring in two years ago and he was a starter. He's played a lot of football, he's worked awful hard. Things worked out that we're a three-man front and we have four good defensive lineman, I would have no problems starting him any time. It's funny, everybody said, 'Do you really mean that?' Yeah, I do. Henry's gone now and he's the starter and we aren't missing a beat. Everything is working out ok for Josh and certainly anticipate throughout the rest of the year it's going to."